7. What were some of the most (and least) helpful things that people did for you this past year?
I'm pretty sure the person who asked me this meant "people" as those beyond my primary caregivers, so I'll answer it that way.
When I was first diagnosed, my best friend (Brianne) set up a calendar through an incredible site called MyLifeLine. She emailed the link to our family, friends, and colleagues and they signed up for particular days to cook us dinner or drop off snacks. Each meal and each snack was indescribably helpful -- both to me and to Brian. The fact that it was organized into a nice neat schedule assuaged by type-A personality as it ensured that we wouldn't have to waste food that we couldn't consume in time.
Otherwise, the most helpful thing that people did for us was to send messages that gave us hope that everything would be OK. I never understood the concept of hope prior to having cancer. I know now that it is an indescribably precious gift.
While it may be possible for me to list the hundreds of things that people did for us to help make a very rough time more smooth, I could never express how meaningful each of those things were to us. From bringing me homemade cookie dough (after I wrote about my doubts that I could make it myself) to dropping off scratch tickets (since it was time for my luck to change) to giving me a hug that said I care, each and every kind gesture made it easier to cope.
The least helpful thing that people did was mention experiences with cancer that ended in someone dying from the disease. I know, those people are entitled to their stories and if I were stronger, I would have put aside my own feelings and acknowledged theirs. But before you're pushed out of the skydiving plane, you don't want to be told that the guy before you had his parachute break (sorry, I couldn't help but use a metaphor).
8. What have you told your kids about your cancer?
That I had it in my boob; that my doctors did a surgery to take it out; that the medicine they gave me afterwards made my hair fall out; and that I continue to go to get my medicine every three weeks (like I did today) so that the cancer never comes back.
Annabel doesn't get much more than the boobie and the going to the doctor part. But at five-and-a-half, Teddy gets a lot more. About a month ago, he told me he wanted to show me something on TV. He grabbed the remote, found his way to the MLB Game Highlights on Apple TV, then scrolled his way to a baseball game (in Chicago, I think) where players used pink gloves and the crowd received free pink hats or shirts or something for breast cancer. See Mom, it's fo bweast can-sew, he explained. I had been expected a no-hitter or something like that. But him finding me that game was so much more amazing than a no-hitter.
9. Have you done anything to prepare for your own death?
Yes, but not because of cancer. I had purchased life insurance a few years ago and Brian and I had a will drawn up after Teddy was born. I admit, a few months ago I saved a document on my computer entitled, My Funeral. It's a work in progress, and I don't work on it in any sort of morbid or time-consuming way. But if cancer or a meteor or a slip in the shower happens to take me, I don't want my family stressed over what I would have wanted. So I've laid it all out to spare them any more pain. Plus, I think they'll have a good laugh over some of my choices. Sure, most people don't play upbeat music at funerals, but if my instructions say to, please abide by them.
10. Did cancer change you? If so, how?
No. But writing about it really, really did. How? It made me so much more alive.